What is the difference between ancient and modern Freemasons?

What is the difference between ancient and modern Freemasons?

Let’s Start at the beginning…

In June 24, 1717, the Premier Grand Lodge of England was established as the ‘Grand Lodge of London and Westminster’. It was focused on supplying Freemasonry to the London and Westminster areas in England.  It is important to note that this Grand Lodge is the oldest known in the country of England, therefore it soon became known as the Grand Lodge of England. The Grand Lodge was founded on St John The Baptist’s Feast Day when four existing lodges met at the Goose and Gridiron Alehouse in London.

During 1717, four Blue Lodges came together in London and formed the first Grand Lodge. Most of the members of these lodges were Operative Masons; in fact, only one of the lodges had a majority of its members being Speculative which were meeting at the Rummer and Grapes.

In 1723, a long introduction of tracing Freemasonry back to biblical times was implemented via “The Book of Constitutions”. It included a set of six “Charges” or Masonic obligations; it expanded version of Payne’s Regulations; it formalized the method of constituting a new lodge. For the first time, all of Freemasonry, except for the ritual, was available in a printed book.

However, though there were groups of Freemasons that trace their roots back to the ideals and morals of the Christian belief system. But not every Freemason were themselves Christians. It is critical to inform you that not all Masons were Christians in that era. So in England, the Grand Lodge had to factions of Brothers – those Christian and those who were not Christian.  Thus it’s historical line was of a non-Christian focus.

In the year 1751, a number of Blue Lodges came together in London to form a rival Grand Lodge. The original Grand Lodge’s members came to dubbed “Moderns” while the latter called themselves “Antients”.  Further, this group of unaffiliated lodges of mainly Irish membership formed the Grand Committee of what would become the Most Ancient and Honourable Society of Free and Accepted Masons according to the Old Constitutions, now known as the ‘Ancients’ or ‘Antients’.   Because it was the first Masonic Grand Lodge to be created, it called itself the Premier Grand Lodge of England in order to distinguish it from the Most Ancient and Honourable Society of Free and Accepted Masons according to the Old Constitutions.

Who assisted in coming up with the names – Moderns and Ancients?

Laurence Dermott, who was the Grand Secretary & the Deputy Grand Master of the ‘Ancients’, helped the terms stick in our Masonic history. But be aware, the original Grand Lodge was already referred to as the “Moderns”, and Dermott made sure that it stuck when he was serving as the Deputy Grand Master. In 1756, Dermott published his version of the Book of Constitutions ensuring his own Grand Lodge becoming known to history as the Ancients.

Did you know, that Dermott originally affiliated with a ‘Moderns’ lodge around 1752, but left it to join one of the unaffiliated Irish lodges?

It is important to note that the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge was to be a member of the Nobility. This nobleman would serve as their sponsor and serve as their spokesmen in high places.

Once a member of the Aristocracy/Nobility was chosen as Grand Master, it set in motion a chain of events that lead to the beginning of the much talked about disagreement.  The Grand Master was a member of the nobility and naturally associated with his class equals.  He further tended to fill his Masonic leadership appointments in the Grand Lodge with other aristocrats. Thus, Laurence Dermott, which was a successful wine merchant in England at the time, was the Deputy Grand Master and effectively ran the Grand Lodge.

It is thanks to Dermott that the United Grand Lodge, as it currently stands, inherits the infrastructure of the Moderns, but takes its ritual from the Ancients.

Why was there a disagreement or Schism in Freemasonry at that time?

Unfortunately, this class structure at that time was very inflexible. The thinking during that era was that no man would set aside any of his God-given rights and prerogatives of his nobility. The Christian Freemasons, known as the ‘Ancients’ or ‘Antients’ and the ‘Moderns’ never claimed a Christian heritage but instead had set up lodges that promoted values other than those espoused in Christianity.

Anderson’s Constitutions was published in 1723, by Presbyterian Church Minister and four deacons of Huguenot church. Thus, this became one of the founding documents of Freemasonry and was regularly printed in pocket-sized versions for the brothers of that era.  Anderson’s 1723 constitutions book only recognized the grades of Entered Apprentice and Fellowcraft/Master. Later, Demott wrote the ‘Ahiman Rezon’ as the ‘ancients’ version of the Book of Constitutions as a way to retain the traditions of Freemasonry in its purest form.

Thus a feud amount the Freemasons of that era quickly erupted.  As time progressed, both “Ancient” and “Modern” Freemasons struggled to overcome this ideology and return to a more pure form fraternal-ism that is represented in the modern-day degree work.

So what were the differences in the two Freemasons Grand Lodge’s Book of Constitutions based on?

Here are the main points of difference between the ‘Antients’ and ‘Moderns’, as defined by the ‘Antients’ which can be easily summed up with the following:

  1. Transposing the modes of recognition in the First and Second Degrees
  2. Omitting prayers
  3. De-Christianizing the ritual, which the ‘Antients’ pointed to the ‘Anderson’s Constitutions of 1733’ as proof
  4. Ignoring the Saints’ Days, the ‘Moderns’ were being pointed as holding their festivals on days that were not the days of St. John.
  5. Omitting to prepare Candidates in the customary fashion
  6. Abbreviating the ritual work
  7. Neglecting the lectures and the catechisms that were attached to each degree
  8. Ceasing to recite the Ancient Charges at Initiations of new Brothers
  9. Introducing extreme plainness and simplicity of style into the ceremonies
  10. Removing the sword in the Initiation ceremony with the exception that the Tyler wore a sword
  11. Allowing a more esoteric ceremony at the installation of a Master to stop being used in the degree work
  12. Departing from the ancient method of arranging the lodge
  13.  Ignoring the Deacon

Two very famous Master Masons who did not adhere to the ‘ancients’ values in the Craft at that time were Benjamin Franklin and George Washington. Believe or not, Benjamin Franklin was buried without being allowed a proper Masonic Funeral due to his secular beliefs as a Modern Mason at that time.

What is the difference between the Ancient Free & Accepted Masons and the Free & Accepted Masons?

From 1751 to 1813, there were two Grand Lodges in England. Both Grand Lodges were issuing charters or warrants empowering Masons to do degree work. Thus both allowed new Masonic Lodges to formed, mainly in the colonies soon to be the United States of America.

The reason for the formation of these two Grand Lodges in England was based on the Schism or disagreement on their written constitutions.

One group of Brother English Masons were dubbed – ‘Moderns’.  Ironically, this group was actually the older British Grand Lodge. The second group of English Freemasons called themselves – ‘Antients’ or ‘Ancients’

The ‘Moderns’ established the “Free & Accepted Masons” and the ‘Antients’ or ‘Ancients’ established the “Ancient Free & Accepted Masons” or “Antient Free & Accepted Masons”.

It should be noted that the disagreement was short-lived.  It went on for 62 years and finally both groups agreed to once again open formal Masonic Communication with each other.  By the year 1813, the disagreement was totally and completely resolved. Also, during that time frame, the two Grand Lodges merged back into one Grand Lodge in England.  Thus the two Grand Lodges  existed until 1813 when the Premier Grand Lodge of England united with the Ancient Grand Lodge of England to create the “United Grand Lodge of England”

But the damage was done because each group spawned their separate Blue Lodges and Provincial Grand Lodges all across the colonies and also after the American Revolution in the United States.

Thankfully, when the merger was complete, the Blue Lodges and Grand Lodges which are set with their own By-Laws and further cemented by their fraternal independence to retain the titles and initials they wished to have selected for themselves when the Grand Lodge was founded. Either as “Ancient Free & Accepted Masons”; “Free & Accepted Masons”; and in some cases some other variation.  This in some cases can be connected to which Grand Lodge was the chartering entity of a particular Blue Lodge, prior to the creation of the new Grand Lodge. But it is important to note, that according to prescription and usage, as adopted in London, in 1717, by and through the Representative System, as practiced on that occasion and adopted by constitutional provisions as binding for all time by the Craft.

If a brother Freemason visits different states, he will find the title on the Blue Lodge and Grand Lodge to read as such. Further, a brother can enjoy hearing a slight difference in the degree work too.

Once a year, a Cave Degree is offered for Brother Masons to visit and sit in a lodge to experience the degree work from other states. Further, they enjoy taking note of the differences in procedures of opening or closing a lodge and how the By-Laws effected that Grand Lodge’s chartered blue lodge in the proper manner.

Today, all the Grand Lodges in the United States treat each other with respect.  Many of the Grand Lodges in the United States are recognized by other regular Grand Lodges in Scotland, England, Thailand, Ireland, India, and other countries in Europe, Africa, and South America.

What states are going by Ancient Free and Accepted Masons?

Ancient Free and Accepted Masons Grand Lodges within the United States are as follows:

Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin

What states are going by Free and Accepted Masons?

Free and Accepted Masons Grand Lodges within the United States of America are the following states:

Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wyoming

Did you want more Freemasonry 101 topics to read? Good news, I am creating plenty for you to enjoy! I have been spending hours creating this information, so take a moment to read each one!  Or maybe you want to find a lodge in your neck of the woods? Good news – I am creating a complete review of each Grand Lodge – it will take time but I wanted you to have this information at your fingertips!  If you want to network with other Freemasons – check out our Facebook Group / Page now!

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